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Maternal Mental Health Awareness

Illustration of a pregnant woman talking with a healthcare provider in a soothing, plant-filled setting, highlighting World Maternal Mental Health Awareness week by London Pregnancy Clinic.

Maternal Mental Health Awareness

Discover the importance of Maternal Mental Health in 2024.

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Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week casts a spotlight on the crucial mental health challenges mothers encounter both during and after pregnancy. This post delves into these issues, offering strategies for personal care and emphasising employer support for the well-being of returning mothers.

Maternal mental health often gets overlooked, with the focus shifting to physical health and newborn care. However, the mental well-being of mothers is just as critical and warrants equal attention and support. In many countries, around 1 in 5 new mothers experience a mood or anxiety disorder that goes unnoticed and untreated due to lack of awareness and stigma. This Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re exploring significant mental health challenges during pregnancy, after childbirth, and the transition back to work, providing insights and solutions to support mothers in these crucial times.

Urgent Support

If you find yourself in crisis, feeling despair, or experiencing suicidal thoughts, it’s crucial to seek help immediately. Reach out to a healthcare professional—this could be your GP, midwife, or health visitor.

Alternatively, you can take the following steps:

Remember, you are not alone. Mental health issues during and after pregnancy are common, and support is readily available.

What is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week?

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week is an annual campaign aimed at raising both public and corporate awareness about the mental health challenges mothers face. It calls for improved care and support for women tackling mental health challenges from the prenatal period through to postpartum and beyond. This week underlines the importance of understanding, recognising, and addressing maternal mental health issues to enhance health outcomes for mothers and their children.

The Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA), a UK charity network comprising over 125 organisations, commits to high-quality care for families facing perinatal mental health issues. This year, the MMHA has set daily themes to enhance the dialogue about maternal mental health. Starting on Monday, 29 April, the focus is on demystifying perinatal mental illness with various resources, including an animation and expert videos. On Tuesday, attention shifts to the support required for perinatal mental health in workplaces.

World Maternal Mental Health Day on Wednesday calls for united advocacy for maternal mental health needs. Thursday explores identity changes during the perinatal period, coinciding with the launch of a new campaign in collaboration with Aveeno Baby. The week progresses with themes that highlight recovery stories, provide empowering resources, and conclude with reflections on Sunday, 5 May. Each theme aims to educate, support, and empower individuals across the UK, promoting a deeper understanding and better support systems for maternal mental health.

Mental Health During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a profound life event that sparks various emotional responses. Although often joyous, it can also worsen or trigger mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Factors like hormonal changes, previous mental health issues, and the stress of impending parenthood can all contribute. Early recognition of symptoms and seeking support through therapy, support groups, or medical intervention can mitigate these effects and improve health for both mother and baby.

Mental Health Postpartum

The importance of postpartum mental health cannot be overstated, yet it often receives insufficient attention. Issues such as postpartum depression (PPD), anxiety, and psychosis can severely affect a mother’s ability to bond with her child and function daily. Stigma and a lack of awareness often prevent mothers from seeking necessary help. Informing new mothers and their families about the symptoms and available treatments is essential.

Maternal Mental Health Study

Suicide is a significant cause of maternal death during pregnancy and the year following birth, known as the perinatal period. Despite its rarity in the UK, with a prevalence of 3.84 per 100,000 live births, the consequences of maternal suicide are devastating and enduring. Alarmingly, the estimated global prevalence of suicide attempts is much higher, at 680 per 100,000 during pregnancy and 210 per 100,000 post-birth.

The ASPEN-study, focusing on perinatal suicide attempts, aims to deepen our understanding of the experiences and contexts of these events. This qualitative research highlights the critical need to explore the motives and circumstances leading to suicide attempts among pregnant individuals and new mothers.

The findings suggest that feelings of entrapment and despair, often amidst traumatic life events and adversities, are potential indicators of risk. Recognising these signs early through meaningful enquiry could enhance care, aiding in the timely prevention of maternal suicides and improving overall maternal mental health outcomes.

How Companies Can Help:

Employers play a pivotal role in supporting the mental health of mothers returning to work. Here are effective ways companies can assist:

  • Flexible Work Arrangements: Facilitate flexible hours and remote work opportunities to help mothers balance work and home life effortlessly.
  • Parental Leave Policies: Develop or enhance parental leave policies that provide sufficient time off for both mothers and fathers, aiding in reducing postpartum stress and promoting family bonding.
  • Supportive Work Environment: Cultivate a culture that supports mental health, providing resources like Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that offer counselling and mental health support, and training managers to recognise and appropriately respond to mental health issues.
  • Childcare Support: Ease one of the significant stresses for working parents by assisting with childcare, whether through onsite facilities, partnerships with local childcare providers, or subsidies.
  • Health and Wellness Programs: Promote overall health and well-being through programs that include stress management workshops, wellness apps, and access to fitness centres, all of which can improve mental health.

Final Thoughts

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week serves as a vital reminder of the unique mental health challenges mothers face during one of the most transformative phases of their lives. By understanding and addressing these issues, we can contribute to healthier families and stronger communities. Our active support can profoundly impact the lives of countless women returning to the workforce.

For more information on maintaining good mental health during pregnancy, visit the NHS’s Mental Health in Pregnancy page. If you think a referral might help, please speak to your midwife, GP, health visitor, social worker, mental health service, or a support charity. 

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Women’s Health Internship

Modern, minimalist illustration of three diverse female health specialists at London Pregnancy Clinic, dressed in medical scrubs, working with medical charts and a laptop in a clean, clinical setting, designed in flat graphic style with soft pastel colors, representing inclusivity and professionalism in women's health.

Nurturing Future Women’s Health Leaders

Olivia Bosworth’s internship journey at LPC.

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Meet Olivia, a dedicated Global Health major from the U.S., interning at the London Pregnancy Clinic (LPC) as she journeys towards becoming a Maternal Fetal Medicine physician. Discover the invaluable experiences she’s gained and the profound impact of her work.

Embarking on a journey from the U.S. to London, Olivia’s story at the London Pregnancy Clinic is one of growth, discovery, and commitment to maternal health. This blog delves into how her internship at LPC has been pivotal in her pursuit of a career in Maternal Fetal Medicine, providing her with unparalleled insights into the dynamics of prenatal care.

Immersion in London’s Medical Community

“I immediately knew it would be the perfect fit,” Olivia reflects. Her year abroad is dedicated to soaking up every element of British healthcare, with LPC serving as a comprehensive backdrop. This chance to juxtapose various healthcare practices has been incredibly beneficial, broadening her perspective for her future medical career.

Multifaceted Role in Prenatal Care

Olivia’s daily duties at LPC are diverse and impactful. As part of the medical assistant team, she’s pivotal in the clinic’s day-to-day operations, often starting her day at reception, assisting with patient check-ins and administrative tasks.

Her role extends beyond these duties; Olivia collaborates closely with a wide range of women’s health specialists, including gynaecologists, obstetricians, and early pregnancy scan specialists. This collaboration has enriched her understanding of prenatal care comprehensively.

These interactions allow Olivia to witness the interdisciplinary nature of women’s healthcare firsthand. She assists in clinical settings, engages in patient care planning discussions, and observes intricate medical procedures. Exposure to various specialities not only boosts her medical knowledge but also deepens her appreciation for the collaborative efforts needed to deliver top-notch prenatal care.

In addition to her administrative responsibilities, Olivia enhances LPC’s digital outreach. She contributes to the LPC YouTube channel, aiming to educate and inform a global audience about pregnancy. Here, she hosts videos discussing topics like pregnancy trimesters and LPC’s pregnancy scan timeline.

Lessons in Compassion and Professionalism

LPC’s approach to handling sensitive situations profoundly impacts Olivia. Observing the staff’s compassionate delivery of difficult news has underscored the importance of empathy in healthcare. These experiences have shaped her professional and personal growth significantly.

Olivia’s Internship experience

Every day presents new challenges and learning opportunities, fuelling Olivia’s passion for maternal-fetal medicine. “I’ve gained extensive knowledge in prenatal care, especially in recognising the significant impact of consistent sonography throughout pregnancy,” she comments. Olivia’s narrative powerfully illustrates how crucial hands-on experience is for those committed to making a healthcare impact.

She adds, “Seeing the joy of expectant mothers upon receiving positive Non-invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) results or viewing a 3D scan of their baby is both captivating and heartwarming.”

Watch Olivia’s full interview below. 

Building a Foundation for Excellence in Women’s Health

At LPC, we’re dedicated to training the next wave of healthcare professionals, with a focus on prenatal care. Our internship program not only provides practical experience but also fosters future field leaders. Our interns inject fresh perspectives and energy into our clinic, crucial for our ongoing improvement and innovation.

Final Thoughts

Olivia’s internship at LPC is more than just a career step; it’s a leap towards making a real difference in family lives. Her experiences highlight the value of LPC’s internship program in shaping healthcare’s future leaders.

We ensure our interns engage in all clinic aspects, from patient care to community outreach via our digital platforms. This comprehensive approach equips them for future healthcare challenges and opportunities, providing the necessary skills to excel in any medical setting.

Inspired by Olivia’s journey? Keen to contribute to pioneering prenatal care? Visit our careers page to learn more about LPC’s internship opportunities and how you can join a team that champions growth, compassion, and excellence in healthcare.

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Blood Tests During Pregnancy

Modern minimalist illustration of a hand holding a syringe, in soft light orange and baby pink tones, symbolising blood tests during pregnancy at London Pregnancy Clinic.

Blood Tests During Pregnancy:

Ensuring the Health of You and Your Baby.

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At London Pregnancy Clinic, we understand the importance of precise blood tests for monitoring health and diagnosing conditions during pregnancy. Explore the essential tests that help ensure the well-being of both mother and child.

While blood tests during pregnancy aren’t essential, they can significantly enhance your preparedness. Your healthcare provider may recommend a tailored series to monitor your health and your baby’s growth. These tests are invaluable for early detection of potential health issues, enabling prompt and effective interventions. At London Pregnancy we offer a wide variety of tests, which in this blog, we will dive into.

Why Consider Blood Tests During Pregnancy?

Blood tests during pregnancy offer invaluable insights into both maternal and fetal health, enabling better preparedness and care. Here are several compelling reasons to consider these tests:

Monitor Maternal Health: Blood tests, such as the complete blood count (CBC) and liver function tests, assess the mother’s overall health. They check for conditions like anaemia, infections, and gestational diabetes that may require close monitoring or specific treatments.

Assess Fetal Health and Development: Genetic screening tests can detect chromosomal conditions such as Down syndrome, Edwards syndrome, and Patau syndrome. These tests, often paired with ultrasounds, help evaluate the risk of certain genetic disorders, guiding further prenatal care. We offer Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) from 10 weeks of pregnancy and can help you choose the right NIPT for you!

Identify Rh Incompatibility: Determining the mother’s blood type and Rh factor is crucial. Rh incompatibility can lead to serious complications, necessitating special treatment to safeguard the baby’s health. At LPC we currently don’t offer Rh factor blood test (at the time of writing April 2024). However, during your NHS antenatal checks you will be able to get it. Read more on Rhesus Disease RhD on the NHS website.

Screening for Infectious Diseases: Screening for infectious diseases like hepatitis B, HIV, and syphilis is critical. Identifying these infections early allows for steps to be taken to prevent transmission to the baby, ensuring a safer delivery.

Provide Baseline Information: The results from initial blood tests create a baseline that helps monitor the pregnancy’s progression. Any significant changes can be quickly identified, allowing for timely interventions.

Overall, considering blood tests during pregnancy is vital for early detection of potential issues. These tests enable timely and effective interventions, ensuring the health and wellbeing of both mother and baby.

Why Consider Blood Tests for Pregnancy Confirmation?

Pregnancy tests, including urine and blood tests, are designed to confirm if you are pregnant. Urine tests are widely used due to their convenience and availability over-the-counter. However, blood tests, particularly the Beta HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) test, provide more comprehensive insights.

The Beta HCG test detects the hormone produced by the placenta shortly after implantation, appearing in the blood about 11 days post-conception, which is slightly earlier than in urine. It is essential for confirming early pregnancy and is available in two types: the Qualitative HCG Test, which simply indicates pregnancy with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and the Quantitative HCG Test, which measures exact HCG levels in the blood for high accuracy.

Unlike urine tests, the Beta HCG test requires a blood sample taken in a healthcare setting and is more sensitive, offering early detection and additional information such as the approximate age of the fetus and potential complications. This makes blood tests a vital tool for early and accurate pregnancy confirmation.

What is the AMH Blood Test?

The AMH blood test measures the levels of AMH in a woman’s blood, a hormone produced by ovarian follicles. It serves as a reliable marker of ovarian reserve, indicating a woman’s potential fertility. This test is instrumental for clinicians and fertility specialists to predict a woman’s response to fertility treatments, like in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

AMH levels provide a reliable measure of a woman’s ovarian reserve, although they do not directly correlate with egg quality. Low AMH levels might suggest a diminished ovarian reserve, posing concerns for natural conception or IVF. Conversely, high AMH levels might indicate conditions like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

AMH testing is crucial in assisted reproductive technology, aiding in the development of personalised IVF treatment strategies. Women with low AMH may respond less to ovarian stimulation, affecting egg retrieval numbers and IVF success rates. High AMH levels can increase the risk of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS), especially under strong fertility medication effects.

Preparing for Your Blood Test

Our blood tests at London Pregnancy Clinic are perfect for accurately confirming pregnancy, monitoring early viability, and following up post-IVF. We offer convenient same-day appointments that fit your schedule. To ensure accurate results, follow the specific instructions provided by your healthcare professional. These may include:

  • Fasting Requirements: You might need to avoid all food and drinks, except water, for up to 12 hours before certain tests.
  • Medication Guidelines: It may be necessary to pause specific medications temporarily. This will prevent any interference with your test results.

Adhering to these guidelines is crucial. Incorrect preparation can affect your results, possibly requiring a repeat of the test. Check-in with your care provider about what you should do! At London Pregnancy Clinic you can call our reception and our team will gladly help with any queries!

Please note, that these tests require a referral from an existing provider. We will send the results to both you and your nominated healthcare provider upon request. 

Get to Know Your Phlebotomist

Molly, one of our skilled phlebotomists, ensures that your blood tests are conducted smoothly, providing a comforting presence during the process.

Final Thoughts

The results from these tests provide a snapshot of your health and that of your baby, allowing your healthcare provider to tailor your prenatal care effectively. Remember, it’s crucial to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider.

Our selection of blood tests is available exclusively to patients holding a referral from their healthcare provider, ensuring you receive the highest standard of care. We send samples to a partnered laboratory for precise analysis. If you need a referral or interpretation of blood test results, our friendly reception team is ready to help you book an appointment with the appropriate consultant. Please remember, if you’re coming for a pregnancy scan, our sonographer cannot refer you for a blood test. Referrals for blood tests are only possible through an appointment with our Consultant Obstetricians or Gynaecologists. At the LPC, we’re here to support you from the very first step.

Want to book a blood test with us? Visit our Blood Tests page or give us a call! If you already had your pregnancy confirmed, we recommend booking an early pregnancy scan to check for the baby’s development.

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Understanding Pregnancy Tests

A modern, minimalist illustration depicting a hand holding a positive pregnancy test, surrounded by abstract shapes and elements in light orange and baby pink, symbolising joy and new beginnings.

Understanding Pregnancy Tests:

Your First Step Towards Motherhood and beyond.

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Discover the essentials of a pregnancy test, from how they work to the different types available and what steps to take after getting your results. This guide offers peace of mind as you embark on your journey to motherhood.

Pregnancy tests are the first beacon of information in your journey towards motherhood. They detect the presence of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a hormone your body produces during pregnancy. Highly accurate, these tests offer reassurance and a preliminary confirmation of pregnancy, paving the way for the exciting journey ahead.

How does a Pregnancy Test Work?

Pregnancy tests search for hCG in your urine, which your body starts producing shortly after a fertilised egg attaches to your uterus. This hormone’s levels double every two to three days in early pregnancy, making urine and blood tests highly effective ways to confirm pregnancy. While home tests offer privacy and quick results, blood tests at your doctor’s office can confirm pregnancy earlier and more accurately.

Over-the-counter (OTC) tests detect the HCG hormone in urine, with various methods depending on the chosen kit. You might dip a stick into collected urine, use an eyedropper for transferring urine to a container, or place the stick directly in your urine stream mid-flow.

Home pregnancy tests boast a near-99% accuracy rate when used as directed by the Office on Women’s Health. These tests offer privacy, simplicity, and quick results, usually within minutes. Results could appear as a color change, a line, a symbol (like a plus or minus), or explicitly as “pregnant” or “not pregnant.” A negative outcome might not be definitive, especially if instructions weren’t followed, the test was taken too soon, or certain medications interfered. Consult a pharmacist about potential medication effects on test results.

If symptoms persist or your period doesn’t commence, try another test in a week. Seek GP advice for continuous negative results without menstruation. Some pharmacies and GPs provide tests, sometimes free or for a nominal fee, ensuring even quicker answers. Remember, if going to your GP, bring a urine sample in a clean container. Results can take days, though some tests are instant.

Wondering when to take a pregnancy test?

Some highly sensitive tests can detect pregnancy before your period is due. Yet, waiting until the first day of a missed period boosts accuracy. For the clearest result, test a week after missing your period.

Tests measure HCG, a hormone present only during pregnancy. This hormone appears after a fertilized egg attaches to the uterus, a process known as implantation, occurring about 10 days post-conception. HCG traces can appear 6 days post-implantation, but levels usually need 7–10 days to become detectable. If your cycles are irregular, testing 21 days after unprotected intercourse is wise. Testing too early may yield inaccurate results.

Types of Pregnancy Tests

Opt for Home Pregnancy Tests: Seeking a convenient option? Home pregnancy tests offer privacy. Conduct these tests as soon as you miss your period. They promise up to 99% accuracy when used as directed.

Consider Blood Tests: Need an early confirmation? Blood tests, performed in healthcare settings, can provide it. Although less commonly used, they’re highly accurate for early detection. At London Pregnancy Clinic we can perform these tests and one of our phlebotomists will assist you.

Signs you may be pregnant

Spotting early pregnancy signs is crucial. If you notice any unusual changes, consider a pregnancy test. Here’s a restructured and concise guide to understanding these signs.

Missed Period: A hallmark sign, missing your period suggests it’s time for a test. While a standard cycle lasts about 28 days, they can range from 24–38 days. If over a month has passed without your period, testing is wise. However, stress, medication, and changes in birth control can also affect your cycle. Early pregnancy might show light spotting as the egg implants, which differs from a regular period. Consult a doctor for any bleeding with a positive test.

Cramping: Similar to menstrual cramps, early pregnancy might bring discomfort. If your period doesn’t follow, testing is advisable.

Breast Changes: Pregnancy increases estrogen and progesterone levels, leading to tender, fuller breasts and darker veins. These symptoms can also precede a period, so they’re not definitive of pregnancy.

Feeling Different: Early signs include nausea, food aversions, fatigue, and frequent urination. Pay attention to your body; any distinct changes might indicate it’s time for a test.

Failed Birth Control: No method is 100% foolproof. Pills might fail, especially if not used perfectly, and condoms can break. Despite the effectiveness of long-term options like IUDs, pregnancy is still possible. If experiencing other pregnancy signs, take a test, regardless of your birth control use.

Remember, understanding your body’s signals is key. If you’re encountering any of these symptoms, a pregnancy test can provide early insight, allowing for prompt healthcare consultation. At London Pregnancy Clinic, we’re here to support you with tailored advice and comprehensive care for your pregnancy journey.

Embarking on Your Journey

A positive test marks the start of a remarkable journey. Your next move? Book an appointment with your healthcare provider. This crucial visit can verify your pregnancy with additional tests. It also kick-starts vital prenatal care, safeguarding your well-being and your baby’s health. Embrace this journey, prioritising health and care from the outset. Your provider will guide you through each step, ensuring you and your baby thrive.

At the LPC, we understand the emotional and physical significance of this phase in your life. Recognising the unique needs and concerns of expectant mothers, LPC offers the opportunity to book your first appointment directly with a midwife. This personal touch ensures that you receive tailored advice and support right from the outset.

Furthermore, LPC introduces an option that diverges from the standard NHS protocol. Recognising the desire for early reassurance, we offer a viability scan as early as 6-9 weeks into the pregnancy. This service caters to those eager for an earlier confirmation of their pregnancy’s progression, rather than waiting until the NHS’s 12-week scan. The decision to opt for this early scan underscores the importance of peace of mind and the value of early connection with the developing life within.

The viability scan presents a window into the womb, offering expectant parents their first glimpse of their unborn child and the heartbeat that symbolises life. This experience often strengthens the bond between parent and child, grounding the reality of the pregnancy and fostering an early emotional connection.

Ultrasound Screening Vital for Early Detection

Ultrasound screenings are not just routine checks; they’re crucial for early prenatal care. These scans help identify potential structural anomalies in the baby’s development, which are pivotal for addressing congenital anomalies. At London Pregnancy Clinic, we specialise in providing comprehensive ultrasound screenings, tailored to each stage of pregnancy, ensuring early detection and peace of mind from 10 weeks onward.

Many inquire about the possibility of conducting a scan at 4 weeks. However, at such an early stage, the ultrasound reveals limited details, often not enough to confirm a pregnancy. By 5 weeks, while we may observe the gestational and yolk sacs, these findings alone do not confirm pregnancy viability. It’s this understanding that shapes our recommendation for the optimal timing of your first scan to be held off until week 6/7.

Our 10 Week Scan stands out, offering a unique glimpse into the womb to detect 10 critical fetal anomalies. This pioneering scan, exclusive to our clinic, aligns perfectly with Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT), elevating the standard of prenatal care available to you.

The cornerstone of our scanning services, the Early Fetal Scan, provides an in-depth examination aimed at identifying over 100 serious anomalies well before the standard NHS 19-20 week scan. This early insight grants expectant parents the reassurance and crucial information needed during these formative weeks.

Our approach to prenatal screenings is revolutionary, offering early answers and invaluable peace of mind. Through our advanced screening capabilities, we illuminate potential concerns, facilitating timely interventions. These scans are more than mere procedures; they are essential milestones providing reassurance that your baby’s development is on course, empowering you to manage your pregnancy with informed confidence and proactive care.

Final Thoughts

At the London Pregnancy Clinic, we’re here to support you from the very first step. If you’ve taken a pregnancy test and are ready for the next stage, or if you have questions about pregnancy tests, our team is here to assist you. You can use our EDD calculator to figure out when your baby might arrive.

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Baby Structures During Pregnancy

Graphic of a stork carrying a baby over the city of London hospital. Blog about baby structures.

Fetal Structures & Ultrasound:

Prenatal Ultrasound’s role in screening baby structures.

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  • Visual guide from London Pregnancy Clinic detailing ultrasound scans for baby structural development.

  • Detailed diagram from London Pregnancy Clinic showing key baby structures during pregnancy development.

  • London Pregnancy Clinic statistics infographic on structural anomalies in fetal development with a 79% pie chart.

  • London Pregnancy Clinic timeline for fetal anomaly scans during pregnancy trimesters.

  • Illustration explaining transabdominal and transvaginal ultrasound scans at London Pregnancy Clinic.

  • Dr. Fred Ushakov at London Pregnancy Clinic highlighting expertise in fetal anomaly screenings.

  • FAQ section on London Pregnancy Clinic website discussing ultrasound scans for genetic anomalies detection.

Pregnancy is a journey of discovery, not just of the self but also of the little life growing inside you. Among the many wonders this period brings is the ability to glimpse into your baby’s developing world through ultrasound screenings. Here we delve into the critical aspects of baby structures, their development, and the pivotal role of ultrasound in ensuring the well-being of your unborn child.

As expectant mothers, the health and development of our unborn child is paramount. Advances in medical technology have gifted us with the ultrasound, a window into the womb, allowing us to monitor the growth and health of our babies like never before. Understanding the structures of a developing baby provides invaluable insights into their well-being and development.

What are fetal structures?

“Baby structures”, or fetal structures, usually denote the anatomical features and organs constituting a human fetus throughout pregnancy, also referred to as the physical development of the baby. It is important to note that this does not include genetic anomalies like Down Syndrome. Fetal development is a complex process where vital structures like the brain, heart, spine, and limbs evolve significantly:

Brain: Development kicks off around week 5 with the neural tube, leading to the brain and spinal cord’s formation. By the second trimester’s close, the brain’s structure mirrors that of an adult, showcasing an almost fully developed brain stem.

Heart: One of the earliest and most significant markers we observe during our dating scan is the heartbeat at 6 weeks, visible through ultrasound, providing crucial insight into the baby’s health and development at this early stage. This marks the beginning of the heart’s rhythmic life-sustaining beats.

Spine: The spine’s journey begins around weeks 6-7, laying the groundwork for the nervous system’s housing and body support. This period also sees the onset of bone development, integral to the body’s framework.

Limbs: Concurrently, weeks 6-7 see the emergence of arm and leg buds, with hands, feet, and digits evolving throughout the pregnancy. These developments are pivotal for the baby’s eventual movement capabilities.

The structures extend to encompass vital organs like the liver and kidneys, which are essential for processing nutrients and waste, the skull that protects the developing brain, and the umbilical cord, a lifeline connecting the baby to the placenta. Additionally, the abdominal organs, critical for digestion and other bodily functions, are part of this intricate network of development, underlining the complexity and wonder of fetal growth during pregnancy. Monitoring these structures’ growth is vital, employing fetal heart rate monitoring, ultrasounds, and physical exams to ensure the baby’s health and well-being.

Monitoring Key Baby Structures 

Expectant mothers cherish every moment of their pregnancy journey, closely observing their baby’s development. The fetus’s organs and anatomical features, notably the brain, heart, spine, and limbs, undergo remarkable transformations. These critical structures not only signify health but also ensure the baby’s overall development and well-being.

From the first to the third trimester, various scans are recommended to monitor your baby’s development. These range from the 10-week scan, aiming to exclude major fetal anomalies, to the fetal echo scan and the anomaly scan, each designed to screen for specific conditions at different stages of pregnancy .

The majority of fetal anomaly scans are conducted transabdominally (watch our video on ultrasound probes), offering a glimpse of the baby’s heartbeat and structures. In certain cases, a transvaginal scan might be necessary for a more detailed view, especially when the baby is positioned awkwardly or when examining the placenta.

As the fetus grows, so does our anticipation and concern for its health. Regular monitoring of these structures becomes paramount. It reassures us that development proceeds without any hindrances. Specifically, we focus on the baby’s heart and brain, pivotal for life and cognitive functions. The spine’s integrity is equally crucial, supporting the body and housing the nervous system. Moreover, observing the limbs ensures proper growth and the potential for movement. In essence, these structures form the foundation of our baby’s future. Ensuring their optimal development through vigilant monitoring not only secures their health but also paves the way for a thriving life post-birth.

Most Common Structural Anomalies?

According to the European platform on Rare disease registration EU RD Platform, structural anomalies in the baby’s organs represent roughly 79% of widely recognised congenital anomalies. The most common structural anomaly encountered in newborns is congenital heart defects (CHD). These defects, which disrupt the heart’s structure and function post-birth, affect 1 in 100 UK babies. Ventricular septal defect (VSD), or ‘hole in the heart,’ stands out as the predominant issue.

Newborns also face other frequent congenital issues, including:

  • Cleft Lip and Palate: A gap in the mouth’s upper lip and roof.
  • Spina Bifida: The spinal column’s incomplete closure.
  • Neural Tube Defects (NTD): Disorders like anencephaly affecting brain and spinal development. Spina bifida falls under NTDs.
  • Gastroschisis: Intestines extending outside the abdomen from birth.
    Exomphalos or Omphalocele: Abdominal organs bulge through the navel.
  • Clubfoot or Talipes: A foot deformity where it angles inwards and downwards.
  • Limb Reduction Defects: Absence or incomplete limb formation.
  • Polydactyly: Having extra fingers or toes.
  • Intestinal and Duodenal Atresia: Intestine blockages or missing sections.
  • Kidney Anomalies: Various kidney development, structure, or function malformations.

In essence, these conditions highlight the spectrum of potential challenges infants may face from birth, underscoring the importance of early detection and intervention. Awareness and understanding of these common anomalies can lead to better outcomes for affected children, as early intervention often opens the door to corrective procedures and supportive therapies, enhancing quality of life. The emphasis on these conditions reflects a commitment to providing the necessary care and support for affected families, guiding them through diagnosis, treatment, and beyond, with a focus on fostering resilience and hope.

Ultrasound Screening Vital for Early Detection

Ultrasound pregnancy scans transcend mere glimpses into the womb; they are indispensable tools in prenatal care. Structural anomalies within the baby’s organs account for a significant share of congenital anomalies. Fortunately, ultrasound offers a solution, detecting early signs of such conditions. At the London Pregnancy Clinic, our expertise in ultrasound screenings shines at every stage. We tailor our early pregnancy scans to the gestational age, offering unparalleled early detection from 10 weeks onwards.

10 Week Scan: Our clinic excels with a pioneering 10/11-week scan, designed to uncover 10 critical fetal anomalies early on. This scan, unique to our services, complements NIPT seamlessly, setting a new standard in prenatal care.

Early Fetal Scan: The hallmark of our service, the Early Fetal Scan, conducts an exhaustive review of the baby’s development. It’s crafted to spot over 100 serious anomalies well ahead of the standard NHS 19-20 week screenings. Offering this advanced insight provides early reassurance and essential information to expectant parents.

In short, our approach revolutionises prenatal screenings, giving you early answers and peace of mind. It brings to light potential issues, enabling timely interventions. These screenings are not just procedures but gateways to peace of mind for expectant mothers. They assure us that our baby’s development is on the right track, allowing us to address any concerns proactively.

  • Baby with missing left hand at 12 week early pregnancy scan.

    Baby with missing left hand at 12 week, an absence or incomplete limb formation.

  • Normal Early pregnancy scans at 12wk 3D.

    Normal baby at 12 weeks of pregnancy during an early pregnancy scans 3D.

Advanced Anomaly Detection in Late Pregnancy

Early detection of fetal anomalies enables timely interventions, crucial for the well-being of your baby. However, some anomalies manifest later, necessitating advanced screenings in the later stages of pregnancy. Our late-stage anomaly scans are designed to offer peace of mind and crucial insights during the final stages of pregnancy. 

Anomaly Scan: Our 22-23 week Anomaly Scan goes beyond the NHS’s 19–20-week standard, offering a deeper insight into your baby’s development. This comprehensive check includes detailed assessments of the brain, heart, face, fingers, and vital organs. We also provide additional services like uterine artery Doppler and cervical length measurements on request, ensuring an all-encompassing review.

3rd Trimester Anomaly Scan: To address the absence of routine NHS scans post-18-20 weeks, our clinic offers the 3rd Trimester Anomaly Scan between 26-29 weeks. This scan is pivotal for detecting late-manifesting anomalies and monitoring fetal growth and well-being. Given the technical difficulties of scanning after 30 weeks, this period is optimal for identifying significant issues, especially affecting the brain, heart, and kidneys. It’s also an ideal time for clinical 3D/4D imaging, enriching your connection with your unborn child.

Leveraging state-of-the-art technology and thorough assessments, we are committed to delivering unparalleled prenatal care. Trust our expertise to navigate you through these essential phases of pregnancy, providing clarity, early intervention opportunities, and fostering a profound bond with your baby.

Why do we focus on Early detection?

At our clinic, early detection of fetal anomalies stands as a priority, underlining our commitment to comprehensive prenatal care. Early diagnosis paves the way for detailed insights into potential health issues, fostering a deeper understanding and effective management from the outset.

This early intervention allows healthcare experts to convey critical information regarding the anomaly, its possible effects, and the spectrum of care and intervention options available. Such a proactive stance equips parents with the knowledge to make well-informed decisions, streamlines medical planning, and guarantees the availability of essential support and resources.

Given the time-sensitive nature of advanced genetic screenings, including microarrays and exome sequencing, alongside expanded NIPT choices, securing an early diagnosis is crucial. These intricate tests, demanding several weeks for results, underscore the necessity of timely identification. It ensures ample time for exhaustive testing, facilitating a holistic and well-considered approach to prenatal care and support throughout the pregnancy journey.

Embracing this early detection strategy, we aim to guide expectant parents with clarity, empowering them with options and support every step of the way. Our focus on early diagnosis reflects our dedication to delivering exceptional care and support, ensuring a well-informed, reassuring pregnancy experience.

Baby Structures FAQs

  • Can ultrasound detect genetic anomalies?

    While ultrasound scans are adept at identifying physical development and potential structural issues, they cannot detect genetic anomalies. For genetic screening, additional tests like Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) or amniocentesis are recommended.

  • Do the scans guarantee the detection of all anomalies?

    Regrettably, predicting every anomaly before birth is beyond reach. Commonly missed anomalies include isolated cleft palate (a split in the mouth’s roof with intact lips) and ambiguous genitalia. Additionally, certain rare genetic conditions elude detection through ultrasound scans.

  • Structural Anomalies Linked to Genetic Syndromes?

    Noticing structural anomalies or physical differences in a baby during pregnancy often hints at a genetic or chromosomal connection. Simply put, these anomalies might signal an underlying chromosomal or genetic syndrome, commonly referred to as “rare diseases.

    Understanding the tie between genetic makeup and structural anomalies is key. It unravels the complex relationship between a baby’s DNA and their physical traits. An anomaly might stand alone or indicate a broader genetic condition.

    If a baby is diagnosed with a chromosomal or genetic condition, these anomalies manifest the impact of irregular gene functions.

    Crucially, when structural defects accompany chromosomal or genetic conditions, the prognosis tends to be more serious than isolated anomalies. Such conditions frequently correlate with intellectual disabilities or significant health issues, underscoring the importance of early detection and intervention.

  • Why do NIPT with Scan and visa versa?

    Ultrasound plays a crucial role in fetal screening, essential for confirming viability and gestational age alongside NIPT submissions. While NIPT effectively screens for three chromosomal anomalies and other genetic conditions (specific to the panorama test), it doesn’t assess structural anomalies. Conditions like heart or brain defects, often more common and severe than Down’s syndrome, require ultrasound for detection.

    At the London Pregnancy Clinic, our forte is the early identification of fetal anomalies, particularly in the fetal heart and brain. Remarkably, we’re capable of detecting significant anomalies from as early as 10 weeks. Discover more about the scans we pair with NIPT by visiting our scans page; our 10-week scan frequently stands out as the optimum choice.

    Opting for a Panorama Test at 9 weeks? Rest assured, we’ll conduct a detailed structural scan of your baby, albeit with some limitations due to the embryo’s small size and early development stage.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the structures of your developing baby is a crucial part of the pregnancy journey. Ultrasound screenings offer an invaluable tool in this understanding, providing early detection of potential issues and contributing to the effective monitoring of your baby’s health. We invite you to experience the comprehensive care and advanced screening options available at the London Pregnancy Clinic, where we prioritise your peace of mind and your baby’s well-being.

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What is a Doula?

Graphic of celebrating World Doula Day. An illustration of a Doula holding a baby with pregnant women around her.

What is a Doula?

Celebrating the World Doula Week by shedding light on what they do.

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Celebrate World Doula Week with us and discover what is a Doula and the invaluable support they offer to expectant mothers. From emotional support to physical and informational assistance during childbirth, doulas play a crucial role in enhancing the pregnancy experience. Learn how a doula can be part of your journey to motherhood, providing reassurance and strength every step of the way.

As we welcome World Doula Week, let’s spotlight the pivotal role of doulas in the childbirth journey. A doula, known for offering profound support, stands by individuals through childbirth, miscarriage, induced abortion, and stillbirth. Their role transcends mere presence, embracing emotional, physical, and informational support. Doulas guide expectant parents, turning the childbirth process into a more informed, empowering experience.

They shine as beacons of knowledge and comfort, ensuring parents feel heard, valued, and respected. By offering a hand to hold, an ear to listen, and a wealth of knowledge, doulas make the path to parenthood less daunting. Their support is not just about the birth process but about fostering a positive, empowering environment for all involved. Doulas help navigate the complex emotions and decisions that come with childbirth and beyond.

What is a Doula?

The term “doula” has its origins deeply rooted in the ancient Greek word δούλα, meaning “a woman who serves”. Over centuries, this concept has significantly evolved, especially during the grassroots natural birth movement in the United States in the 1960s. This era marked a pivotal shift, as women started advocating for unmedicated, low-intervention births, bringing to light the desire for supportive companionship during childbirth that went beyond medical assistance.

Originally, the concept of a doula focused on emotional and physical support during labour and delivery. However, their role has expanded, embodying a comprehensive support system for various stages of pregnancy, including preconception, miscarriage, and postpartum periods. Doulas are now pivotal figures in the childbirth journey, offering guidance, comfort, and advocacy.

Doulas stand out for their personalised care approach. They tailor their support to meet each family’s unique needs, ensuring a more positive and informed pregnancy and birthing experience. From helping devise birth plans to offering strategies for pain management, doulas empower parents-to-be with knowledge and confidence.

Today’s doulas embody this rich heritage, offering non-medical, emotional, and practical support to families during one of the most transformative periods of their lives (this is what sets them apart from midwives). They draw on formal and practical knowledge to empower expectant mothers to have the birth experience they desire, whether it be at home, in a birthing centre, or in a hospital setting. The evolution of the doula’s role from a grassroots movement to a recognised profession underscores a growing appreciation for personalised care and the profound impact of dedicated support during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period.

The Role of a Doula

Doulas offer a holistic support system that addresses the emotional, physical, and informational needs of expectant families. Their comprehensive care ensures that mothers feel cherished, bodies are respected, and decisions are well-informed, paving the way for a positive and empowered birth experience.

Emotional Support: Doulas provide unparalleled emotional backing, blending compassion with encouragement. Their role goes beyond mere presence; they become confidants to expectant mothers, offering a listening ear during moments of doubt and joy alike. This emotional scaffolding ensures mothers navigate their pregnancy journey feeling thoroughly supported and deeply understood. The reassurance doulas offer becomes a pillar of strength, fostering a sense of calm and confidence as birth approaches.

Physical Support: In the realm of physical comfort, doulas excel with their hands-on approach. Employing techniques such as massage and recommending various birthing positions, they significantly ease the physical strains of labour. Their expertise in comfort measures transforms the birth experience, making pain more manageable and labour more bearable. By intuitively responding to a mother’s needs, doulas facilitate a smoother birthing process, where discomfort is alleviated, and mothers feel more in control of their bodies.

Informational Support: Armed with evidence-based insights, doulas are invaluable guides through the maze of childbirth and postpartum care. They demystify medical procedures and explain care options, empowering families to make choices that resonate with their values and desires. This informed support ensures that decisions around birth and aftercare are made with clarity and confidence. Doulas’ dedication to providing accurate, up-to-date information helps families approach childbirth with informed optimism, prepared for the journey that lies ahead.

Types of Doulas

Birth Doula: Birth doulas can play a crucial role in supporting expectant mothers through pregnancy, labour, and childbirth. They offer continuous emotional support, guidance, and reassurance. These professionals work closely with families, preparing them for the birthing process, assisting in creating birth plans, and providing techniques for pain management. Their presence ensures a comforting and empowering experience, helping mothers navigate the challenges of childbirth with confidence and calm.

Postpartum Doula: In the early days following a baby’s arrival, postpartum doulas become an invaluable source of support for new families. They assist with newborn care, offer breastfeeding support, and help manage household tasks, allowing parents to focus on bonding with their baby. Their knowledge and experience in postpartum care provide a smooth transition for families during this new chapter, ensuring both the baby’s and the mother’s needs are met with compassion and expertise.

Fertility Doula: Fertility doulas offer support to families facing challenges in conceiving. They provide emotional backing, resources, and guidance through fertility treatments and decisions. By offering a listening ear and informed advice, fertility doulas help couples navigate the often complex and emotional journey towards conception. Their role is to empower and support families, ensuring they feel understood and supported every step of the way.

Each type of doula specialises in catering to the unique needs of families during different stages of the pregnancy journey. Their dedicated support ensures that expectant and new parents feel empowered, informed, and cared for, making the journey to parenthood a more positive and fulfilling experience.

Benefits of Having a Doula

Having a doula during childbirth brings numerous advantages. Notably, mothers with doulas often experience reduced intervention rates, such as fewer cesarean sections and less need for pain relief medication. This support can lead to shorter labour durations, allowing mothers to recover more swiftly post-birth. The presence of a doula often results in more positive birth experiences, with mothers feeling empowered and satisfied with their childbirth journey. Crucially, the enhanced emotional support provided by doulas strengthens the overall well-being of mothers and families, creating a nurturing environment for welcoming new life.

How to Choose a Doula

Selecting the right doula is pivotal for a supportive childbirth experience. Begin by considering their training and experience; a well-trained doula can significantly impact your birth experience. Explore their philosophy on labour and childbirth to ensure it aligns with your personal preferences and values. Compatibility is key—your doula should feel like a natural extension of your support system. Seek recommendations from others who have had positive experiences with doulas. This can offer invaluable insights into potential matches. Finally, trust your instincts; the right doula should make you feel comfortable, heard, and respected.

Choosing a doula is a deeply personal decision, influenced by your unique needs and childbirth aspirations. By carefully considering these aspects, you can select a doula who will enhance your birthing experience, offering the support, knowledge, and care you deserve during this transformative time.

How are Doulas involved

Incorporating a fertility doula into the journey of fertility screening adds a deeply valuable layer of emotional guidance and support. They stand by individuals through the whirlwind of emotions that fertility testing can provoke, offering a comforting presence alongside medical treatments. This support extends to providing a safe, nonjudgmental space where individuals can freely express their concerns and uncertainties.

Fertility doulas excel in demystifying the processes involved in fertility screening. They educate on various fertility options and tackle mental blocks or anxieties that may surface. Their holistic approach aims not just to inform but to empower individuals, ensuring they approach each step with confidence and a well-understood perspective.

During ultrasounds, the role of a fertility doula becomes even more pronounced. Their emotional reassurance and ability to answer questions make a significant difference. They strive to create a serene, supportive environment, simplifying the ultrasound process and bolstering the individual’s spirits throughout the appointment. The calming influence of a doula can effectively mitigate any anxiety or apprehensions, significantly enhancing the overall ultrasound experience.

Fertility doulas provide more than just support; they bring clarity, confidence, and a sense of calm to the often complex and emotional journey of fertility screening. Their involvement ensures that individuals feel not only supported but also empowered and informed every step of the way.

Final Thoughts

You’ve discovered the crucial role of doulas in childbirth, providing emotional, physical, and informational support. Their support enhances the well-being of mothers, newborns, and families during pregnancy, labour, childbirth, and beyond, leading to empowering birth experiences.

Initiated by Ruti Karni Horowitz in Israel in 2011, World Doula Week starts on March 22, celebrating World Doula Day, and continues until March 28 every year. CAPPA’s enthusiastic backing helped turn Horowitz’s idea into a global celebration that welcomes all doulas and doula organisations.

This celebration highlights the positive impact of doulas: fewer C-sections, greater confidence in newborn care, shorter labours, fewer epidural requests, higher breastfeeding success, and increased satisfaction with the birth process. Doulas also play a role in reducing postpartum mood disorders. Chosen for its cultural significance of renewed fertility, March 22 aligns with the spring equinox, reflecting the doula’s role in welcoming and nurturing new beginnings worldwide.

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Week 9 of Pregnancy

Early pregnancy scan London Pregnancy Clinic illustration of week 9. Week 9 of pregnancy fetus.

Week 9 of your Pregnancy

Discovering your baby’s progress since week 8

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Week 9 marks a pivotal moment in your pregnancy journey, showcasing significant developments in your baby’s growth. London Pregnancy Clinic invites you to witness these fascinating changes through our private early pregnancy scans. This period highlights the transformation from an embryo to a fetus, emphasising the importance of early prenatal care and the joy of witnessing your baby’s progress.

As you step into Week 9 of your pregnancy, you’re entering a period brimming with growth and transformation for both you and your baby. You’re navigating through an exciting time. The second trimester is near, promising lower miscarriage risks. At London Pregnancy Clinic, witness this through our private scans, as we explore the embryo-to-fetus transition and the joy of early prenatal care. Your Non-invasive prenatal test decision is looking and we are here to help you make that decision.

Key Concepts: fetal development

Genital Tubercle: By 8-9 weeks, the genital tubercle forms in fetuses, evolving into either a penis or clitoris as the pregnancy advances. Initially, fetal gender seems alike due to the genital tubercle. Clear gender signs emerge by weeks 13-14 as external genitalia develop. Fetal gender might be seen on scans as early as 11-12 weeks. However, accuracy depends on the operator’s skill, device quality, and the baby’s position. Waiting longer often yields more accurate gender determination.

Brain Foundations: From week nine, the choroid plexus starts to produce cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), expanding the brain’s ventricular system. This tissue, rich in blood vessels, protrudes into the ventricles, primarily producing CSF. It consists of specialised cells that control CSF composition, vital for brain health. Also, by week nine, the lateral ventricles’ separation prompts the brain hemispheres’ growth, crucial for cognitive functions. These ventricles, forming at week seven, are key for later cognitive skills and neural activities. The choroid plexus significantly influences brain development, secreting CSF that acts as a protective barrier.

From Embryo to Fetus: This week signifies your baby’s transition. It’s a key phase for development, organ function, and future growth. The face takes shape; eyes and ears find their places. Limbs grow fingers and toes, showcasing more early movements like we saw in week 8. A strong heartbeat, detectable by ultrasound, offers a comforting sign of your baby’s vitality.

Pregnancy Checklist at 9 Weeks

  • Book and attend your private early pregnancy scan: Capturing clear images during the 6-9 week Viability Scan is crucial for assessing your baby’s development and health. These dating Scans are pivotal, offering crystal-clear imagery that plays a crucial role in monitoring your baby’s development and ensuring their health. Beyond the clinical benefits, these scans foster a profound emotional bond, providing expectant parents with a reassuring glimpse into their baby’s growth and vitality. 
  • Prioritise Health and Well-being: Your health directly impacts your baby’s growth. Eat well, stay active with gentle exercise, and heed your healthcare provider’s advice.
  • Communication with healthcare professionals: Regular communication with medical professionals is crucial. They offer invaluable support and guidance through physical and hormonal changes. Trust them to make your pregnancy journey informed and smooth.
  • Book Your Antenatal Appointment: If you’ve not yet booked your first antenatal appointment, now’s the time. The NHS offers thorough antenatal care, starting with this vital step. Alternatively, London Pregnancy Clinic’s early private midwifery services offer customised care, tailored to your pregnancy. Use this appointment to voice queries and concerns, laying the groundwork for a healthy pregnancy.
  • Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT): Consider NIPT, a screening that analyses the baby’s genetic information through a simple blood test from the mother. Mostly available from as early as 10 weeks, NIPT can detect certain genetic conditions and determine the baby’s sex. It’s a non-invasive way to gain early insights into your baby’s health and development. Discuss the option of NIPT with your healthcare provider to understand its benefits and whether it’s right for you. If you want to do the earliest possible NIPT we offer Panorama NIPT which can be done from week 9.

Developmental Milestones: Week 9

Embryonic Growth: At this stage, your baby measures between 23 to 31 mm from crown to rump (CRL), which is around the size of an olive. The embryonic shape evolves, with fingers and toes becoming more defined, moving away from their initial webbed appearance.

Gestational and Yolk Sac aDevelopment: According to Nature, By week 9, the gestational sac typically measures between 35-40 mm, with the yolk sac around 3.6 mm.

Heart Development: The fetal heart rate continues to slightly increase to an average of 140-170 beats per minute (BPM) and will gradually stabilise around 12 weeks. These statistics vary from person to person that’s why the range is so large.

Brain + Neural Development: By week 9, the neural tube closes, a vital step in the baby’s brain and spinal cord development. This lays the groundwork for the central nervous system. The brain’s rapid growth sees specific areas forming, enhancing its structure and complexity. Electrical activity starts by week 6, with significant development continuing into the first trimester.

Other Development: Your baby’s facial features, like closed eyes, mouth, tongue with taste buds, and ear lobes, are shaping up. The liver starts making blood cells, and blood vessels form under the skin. The genital tubercle, visible in all embryos, indicates a key point in gender development, observable in both 2D and 3D ultrasounds.

Umbilical cord: In week 9 of pregnancy, the umbilical cord becomes the baby’s vital connection to the placenta. It comprises one vein and two arteries, twined together, that transport crucial nutrients and oxygen to support the baby’s growth. The umbilical cord’s formation starts around week 3 from a connecting stalk, evolving into the mature cord by week 7. This structure, with its gelatinous coating, ensures the efficient exchange between mother and baby.

What is seen on the Ultrasound: Week 9?

As you enter week 9 of your pregnancy journey, an early pregnancy scan offers an enriched, detailed view of your baby’s development, a process both miraculous and fascinating. This period marks a significant milestone in your little one’s growth, as the ultrasound reveals the intricate formation of their tiny body, from the rhythm of the heartbeat to the delicate shaping of limbs and facial features. Perhaps most heartwarming is the possibility of observing movements, especially in the torso, as your baby starts to stretch and wriggle.

A week prior, black spots within your baby’s head signalled the initial stages of brain development. Now, these spaces are filled by the choroid plexus, visible as white spots on the ultrasound. This transition is vital for the growth of the brain’s primary divisions—forebrain (prosencephalon), midbrain (mesencephalon), and hindbrain (rhombencephalon)—laying the foundation for future cognitive and motor skills, emotions, and memories.

Also captured in the ultrasound is the growth of the placenta, depicted as two white lines framing the gestational sac. This organ is indispensable, serving as the lifeline that supplies essential nutrients and oxygen to your baby via the umbilical cord. Its presence and development are reassuring indicators of the pregnancy’s health and progression.

By week 9, the genital tubercle is visible in all embryos, signifying a key phase in gender development. Visible via 2D or 3D ultrasound, its clarity improves with transvaginal scans. This method provides high-resolution images, offering a clear glimpse of early baby movements. While each pregnancy is unique, ultrasound scans follow a similar process. As time goes on, the genital tubercle evolves into either a penis or a clitoris, marking the baby’s gender.

  • Image showing what would an ultrasound show at 8 weeks of pregnancy. It shows an Ultrasound image by London Pregnancy Clinic that shows the gestational sac, fetal pole, amniotic sac and yolk sac - for educational purpose.

    Gestational sac, fetal pole and amniotic sac at 8 weeks of pregnancy as seen on ultrasound scan.

  • Gestational sac, fetal leg and Genital Tubercle at 9 weeks of pregnancy as seen on ultrasound scan.

    Gestational sac, fetal legs and Genital Tubercle at 9 weeks of pregnancy as seen on ultrasound scan.

Thinking ahead: Week 10?

Around 10 weeks into pregnancy, some women might had their initial ultrasound scan already. This scan helps confirm the due date by measuring the baby’s size and checks for multiple births or genetic conditions like Down’s syndrome risk. It’s crucial to keep regular prenatal check-ups and share any concerns with healthcare professionals for proper advice during pregnancy. Discuss the option of a NIPT with your doctor. Available from week 10, this test screens for chromosomal abnormalities and can reveal the baby’s sex.

You may be considering our innovative 10 Week Scan, it’s important to note that this is distinct from the usual viability or dating scans you might be familiar with. Specifically designed for 10-11 weeks of pregnancy, this scan acts as the earliest anomaly check, providing parents with early reassurance by screening for significant physical abnormalities. It marks the first opportunity for a structural examination of the baby, at the earliest stage possible. This timing also makes it the optimal period for non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT), leveraging our blend of professional expertise and the latest in ultrasound technology to deliver results with unmatched clarity. Compared to the standard NHS 12 week scan, our 10-week scan offers a more comprehensive checklist, ensuring nothing is overlooked. 

Remember, NIPT indicates the likelihood of certain conditions, unlike amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS), which provide definitive results but are invasive. Always check if your insurance covers NIPT. For those over 35 or with a family history of genetic conditions, consider NIPT, CVS (done between 10 and 13 weeks), and amniocentesis (usually between weeks 15 to 20). The likelihood of a baby having a chromosomal condition, such as aneuploidy, rises with maternal age, notably after 35 years, termed “advanced maternal age.”

Week 9: Your body?

Alongside fetal developments, maternal changes may be observed during the ultrasound. Increased blood volume and fluid retention can lead to frequent urination. Hormonal fluctuations may cause symptoms like headaches, low blood pressure, constipation, and fatigue. These changes reflect the body’s adaptation to support the growing fetus during pregnancy.

Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water, aiming to drink more in the morning to avoid nighttime trips to the loo. At 9 weeks, you might struggle to fasten your jeans as your uterus expands, doubling in size to accommodate your growing baby. You may even start to show a little. As the weeks progress, your uterus will grow beyond your pelvis. Gaining weight now is not just normal—it’s advisable. Your ideal weight gain during pregnancy depends on your pre-pregnancy BMI. Generally, with a normal BMI, you’d be expected to gain 25 to 35 pounds throughout, with one to five pounds in the first trimester.

However, morning sickness and food aversions may lead to weight loss instead of gain at this stage. Discuss any weight concerns, gain or loss, especially if changes are sudden or severe, with your obstetrician or midwife. Minor weight loss is often seen as acceptable early on. As your appetite returns, there’ll be chances to get your weight gain on track. Severe nausea may require medical intervention. Many under-report nausea and vomiting, but numerous safe Over-The-Counter and prescription options can manage symptoms. 

Week 9 of Pregnancy FAQs

  • what happens during week 9 of pregnancy?

    At 9 weeks pregnant, your body and baby undergo significant changes. Not everyone experiences the same symptoms, ranging from hair thickening—due to reduced shedding and possibly healthier lifestyles including prenatal vitamins—to bloating, caused by increased progesterone slowing digestion.

    An early scan reveals your baby’s rapid growth, from forming hands and feet to facial features developing, and even early movements. The scan also shows the brain’s development, the steady heartbeat indicating a strong cardiovascular system, and the placenta’s vital role in providing nutrients. The genital tubercle’s visibility marks the beginning of gender development, becoming clearer with transvaginal scans.

  • spotting during week 9 of pregnancy?

    Spotting in week 9 of pregnancy is commonly seen and typically isn’t a cause for concern. Light bleeding or spotting can be normal in the first trimester. Nonetheless, consulting your midwife or healthcare provider for a check-up is always wise to dismiss any potential issues.

    Usually, spotting isn’t alarming, but monitoring the situation and getting medical advice if the bleeding gets heavy or continuous is vital. Keeping in contact with your healthcare provider during your pregnancy is crucial to quickly address concerns and safeguard the health of you and your baby.

    Every pregnancy is distinct, and although spotting can be standard, consulting your healthcare provider for tailored advice and reassurance is always recommended.

  • why is week 9 of pregnancy the worst?

    Week 9 of pregnancy might bring challenges due to physical and hormonal changes. Your breasts may enlarge and your waist could thicken as your uterus grows. High levels of pregnancy hormones may cause discomfort and morning sickness. These symptoms are often temporary and improve by the second trimester. Nausea and vomiting, known as “morning sickness,” can happen any time. This is often due to the rise in human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), peaking around week 10. So, the most intense nausea might occur between now and next week. Additionally, increased progesterone can make your breasts larger or swollen.

  • Common symptoms during nine weeks pregnant

    Feeling early flutters at 8 weeks? Expect:

    • Fatigue: Your body is working hard, so tiredness is typical. Make rest a priority.
    • Frequent urination: Your expanding uterus presses on the bladder, meaning more loo visits.
    • Morning sickness: Nausea and vomiting might strike any time. Keep hydrated and seek relief methods.
    • Enhanced senses: You may experience metallic tastes or strong smells. It’s all part of the journey!
    • Mood swings: Hormonal changes may affect your emotions. Treat yourself gently.
    • Sore breasts: Hormones are prepping for breastfeeding, causing discomfort.
    • Bloating and cramping: These are signs of your growing uterus.
    • Light spotting: It’s rare but can occur. Contact your doctor if worried.
    • Other signs: Thicker hair, skin changes, or milky discharge are normal during pregnancy.

    Each pregnancy differs. Some women get many symptoms; others have few. Always consult your healthcare provider with concerns. Consider a private midwife consultation for worries.

  • Can I do NIPT at 9 weeks of pregnancy?

    Non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT)

    can start at 9 weeks into pregnancy. It’s a safe, accurate way to screen for chromosomal abnormalities like Down’s, Edwards’, and Patau’s syndromes. By analysing the mother’s blood for cell-free DNA, NIPT gauges the fetus’s risk for specific genetic conditions without miscarriage risks, ensuring early detection and reassurance. We advise waiting until week 10 for NIPT, allowing it to coincide with our 10-week scan for optimal results.

    NIPT stands out for its precise detection of chromosomal disorders, showing high sensitivity for conditions such as Down’s syndrome. Early testing allows for informed decisions and tailored prenatal care. Discussing NIPT with your healthcare provider is crucial to see if it suits your needs and to understand test implications. 

    Benefits of NIPT include:

    • Non-invasive with no risk to the baby.
    • High accuracy for peace of mind.
    • Early detection for proactive decision-making.
    • Optional sex determination for early family planning.

    Remember: NIPT is a screening test, not a definitive diagnosis. Consult your healthcare provider for further information and personalised guidance. We at LPC offer multiple NIPTs (PrenatalSafe, Panorama, Unity, SMART TEST, Illumina, Harmony) and out specialists will help you choose the best option for you!

Final Thoughts

Week 9 is a time of remarkable progress, and London Pregnancy Clinic is here to guide and support you through every step. With each visit, you’ll gain deeper insights into your baby’s development, reinforcing the bond you share. Embrace this journey with confidence, knowing we’re by your side.

Stay informed and excited about what each new week will reveal about your baby’s growth on our blog.

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International Women’s Day 2024

International Women's Day celebration with diverse female healthcare practitioners and a pregnant woman, highlighting early ultrasound technology at London Pregnancy Clinic.

International Women’s Day 2024

Celebrating the Vanguard of Women’s Healthcare

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This International Women’s Day, we delve into the extraordinary advancements in women’s healthcare, with a special emphasis on prenatal and maternal well-being. It’s a tribute to the indomitable spirit of female healthcare pioneers who have not only contributed to but fundamentally transformed, the landscape of pregnancy and childbirth experiences. At the London Pregnancy Clinic (LPC), we are privileged to uphold this legacy, offering expectant mothers the pinnacle of care and support, inspired by these remarkable achievements.

International Women’s Day serves as a beacon, highlighting the incredible strides towards gender parity and the monumental role women have played across sectors, particularly in healthcare. The sphere of prenatal and maternal health owes much to the tireless efforts and innovations of countless women. Their legacy is a testament to the improved care and support that expectant mothers receive at LPC, as we celebrate these achievements and reflect on how they continue to shape our services.

Milestones in Women’s Healthcare

The evolution of women’s healthcare is marked by key milestones and breakthroughs, many of which were pioneered by women. From the early establishment of women-only hospitals to pivotal research in gynaecology and obstetrics, women have always been at the forefront. Icons such as Dr. Virginia Apgar, creator of the Apgar Score, and Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the first African American woman to earn a medical degree in the U.S., have significantly advanced maternal and child health.

Contemporary Advances in Prenatal Care

The legacy of these pioneering women is evident in today’s advanced prenatal care technologies. Innovations such as non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) and enhanced ultrasound imaging have revolutionised prenatal care, facilitating early detection and intervention when necessary. At LPC, we integrate these advancements to ensure our care protocols reflect the latest in healthcare innovation, thus providing expectant mothers with unparalleled support.

LPC’s Dedication to Women’s Health

At LPC, our mission is to continue this tradition of innovation and compassionate care in women’s health. We offer comprehensive prenatal services designed to support women throughout their pregnancy journey, incorporating early pregnancy assessments, detailed anomaly scans, and beyond. Our team is devoted to creating a nurturing environment that informs, supports, and cares for every expectant mother.

A crucial aspect of today’s prenatal care is the early pregnancy scan, offered from as early as 6 weeks. These scans, pivotal for early reassurance, help detect potential issues and ensure the well-being of both mother and baby from the outset. At LPC, we emphasise the importance of early scans, as they are a cornerstone of comprehensive prenatal care, embodying the advancements in women’s healthcare.

Heartfelt Thank You to Our Female Team

On this significant day, we extend our deepest gratitude to the incredible women on our team at LPC. Their dedication, expertise, and empathy are the bedrock of our clinic. Each day, they embody the spirit of the pioneering women we honour, continuing to make strides in healthcare and ensuring our expectant mothers receive the best possible care. To our female doctors, nurses, midwives, and support staff: thank you for your unwavering commitment to excellence and compassion in healthcare.

Future Inspired by Our Foremothers

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us remember the extraordinary women who have paved the way for today’s advancements in women’s healthcare. Their indelible mark on history inspires us to forge ahead, striving for a future where healthcare equality is a reality for all women. At LPC, we are proud to contribute to this legacy, ensuring that every expectant mother benefits from the highest standard of care and support.

The pursuit of gender equality in healthcare is more than a moral imperative; it’s a necessity for societal advancement. Closing the women’s health gap would not only enable more women to lead healthier, higher-quality lives but also provide an unprecedented boost to the global economy. It’s a goal that LPC actively supports, through our dedicated services and by championing women’s health and empowerment.

Final Thoughts

This International Women’s Day, let us celebrate the achievements in women’s healthcare and the pioneering women behind these advancements. Their contributions have not only shaped the field of prenatal and maternal health but also continue to inspire the next generation of healthcare professionals. At LPC, we are honoured to uphold this legacy, committed to empowering expectant mothers with the best care possible.

Join us in honouring these healthcare heroes and learn more about the bespoke services LPC offers to expectant mothers. Whether you’re exploring prenatal care options or seeking educational resources, we invite you to get in touch. Together, we can celebrate the achievements of the past while empowering the women of today and tomorrow.

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Hertility x LPC partnership

Minimalist flat design illustration of fertility and pregnancy ultrasound partnership between specialists London Pregnancy Clinic and Hertility.

Hertility x LPC partnership:

Bringing Fertility and pregnancy ultrasound support for women

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Discover the transformative partnership between Hertility and London Pregnancy Clinic, revolutionising the way you access fertility and pregnancy ultrasound services. From early pregnancy to specialised scans, our collaboration ensures you receive world-class care without the wait, at a price you can afford.

In an exciting development for expectant mothers and those on their fertility journey, Hertility has partnered with us, London Pregnancy Clinic (LPC), transforming access to reproductive healthcare. Understanding the emotional toll of waiting for your first pregnancy scan, we’ve come together to offer you world-class scanning facilities, ensuring early reassurance through ultrasound without the long wait. It promises to bridge the gap between fertility understanding and pregnancy care, offering an integrated approach to women’s health that is both convenient and comprehensive. Both fertility and pregnancy ultrasound are very important and we are going to unpack what we can offer.

Who is Hertility?

In 2020, Hertility was conceived with a distinct vision by Dr. Helen O’Neill, Dr. Natalie Getreu, and Deirdre O’Neill. It sprang from a realisation that women’s health complexities were often overlooked, with conditions remaining enigmatic within the healthcare system. Hertility emerged as a beacon, championing the cause of bringing reproductive science into the hands of women globally.

Tired of the gaps in women’s healthcare, Hertility was born out of necessity. It became clear that the data underpinning women’s health was not only insufficient but also largely based on male physiology, leading to a paradigm shift in approach. Dr. O’Neill, through her fifteen years in academia, recognised the urgency for tailored datasets that reflect the true nature of female health concerns. Hertility is not just a company; it’s a movement towards empowering women with the knowledge to make informed decisions about their health and life choices.

Why was Hertility Created?

The inception of Hertility was motivated by the profound desire to address the elephant in the womb – the inherent complexities of female reproductive health. With a staggering 60% of women grappling with hormone and gynae issues and the diagnosis of fertility disorders stretching up to eight years, Hertility’s founders saw the dire need for change. By empowering women with accessible, research-led health assessments, Hertility is breaking barriers and shining a light on the path to understanding and managing women’s health effectively.

Hertility’s resolve to be research-led has set a new standard in women’s healthcare. It stands firmly on the foundation of clinical trials and extensive data collection, ensuring every insight provided is robust and actionable. Hertility’s comprehensive at-home hormone and fertility tests are more than just diagnostics; they are a clarion call to acknowledge and act on women’s reproductive health needs. The company’s commitment to sharing their findings reflects their ethos of transparency and education, making Hertility a true vanguard in the realm of women’s health.

Why Hertility and LPC?

Hertility is at the forefront of women’s health, offering at-home hormone and fertility test kits designed to empower women with knowledge about their reproductive health. Their comprehensive approach evaluates various factors, including hormonal balance, ovarian reserve, and potential reproductive health conditions, to provide actionable insights.

Understanding the importance of seamless care, Hertility’s partnership with LPC is a natural progression. LPC’s reputation for excellence in fertility and pregnancy ultrasound complements Hertility’s mission, providing a continuum of care that supports women from fertility assessment through to pregnancy. From fertility screening to anomaly scan we provide a large variety of services for women from our London clinic.

  • Fertility and pregnancy ultrasound services at  London Pregnancy Clinic - Viability scan

    Viability scan 3D image

  • Image showing what would an ultrasound show at 6 weeks of pregnancy. You can see the fetal pole, gestational sac and yolk sac. It shows an Ultrasound image by London Pregnancy Clinic that shows the gestational sac and how small it is - for educational purpose.

    You can see the fetal pole, gestational sac and yolk sac at week 6.

Fertility and pregnancy ultrasound

  • Early Pregnancy Scans: Available from 6 weeks, these scans offer early reassurance, confirming the presence of a gestational sac and fetal heartbeat. The first scan we offer is called the viability scan (or the 6-week scan).
  • HyCoSy Scans: For those investigating fertility concerns, HyCoSy scans assess tubal patency, crucial for understanding potential fertility issues.
  • General, Anomaly, and Early Fetal Scans: A comprehensive range of scans ensures that every aspect of your pregnancy is monitored, from general health checks to detailed anomaly scans. We specialise in NIPT and 10 Week Scan, which is our signature early pregnancy scan.

All scans at LPC are conducted by consultant-level doctors or specialist sonographers in fetal medicine, gynaecology, and fertility. Overseen by Dr Fred Ushakov, a renowned specialist in fetal medicine and obstetrical ultrasound, our team guarantees the highest standard of care.

Why Wait? Early Scans Available from 6 Weeks

The first few weeks of pregnancy are a profound journey filled with anticipation and, sometimes, anxiety. Traditionally, expecting mothers wait until the 11 to 14-week mark for their first scan, a period filled with unanswered questions and needless worries. Recognising the importance of early reassurance, LPC opens its doors to Hertility customers for pregnancy scans starting as early as 6 weeks. Our goal? To provide you with the peace of mind that comes from knowing your pregnancy is progressing as expected, as soon as possible.

If you’re navigating the journey of fertility and pregnancy, let Hertility and LPC guide you to a path of informed, supported, and comprehensive care. You can check out our fertility and pregnancy ultrasound services!

Final thoughts

Hertility’s partnership with the London Pregnancy Clinic marks a defining moment in women’s health. With Hertility’s research-driven methodology and our fertility and pregnancy ultrasound services, we hope to provide a holistic approach for all women. Our combined effort provides an answer to the calls for early and accessible pregnancy scans, ensuring that expectant mothers receive the support and assurance they need, precisely when they need it. This collaboration goes beyond convenience; it is a powerful statement that women’s health deserves prioritisation and respect.

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Baby Loss Certificate – DHSC

Modern and minimalist artwork by London Pregnancy Clinic, symbolising remembrance and hope with a stylised candle and heart for baby loss certificate pre-24 week.

Introduction of Baby Loss Certificates

Honouring the Journey of Loss

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In a compassionate move by the Department of Health and Social Care, parents who have endured the heartbreak of pregnancy loss before 24 weeks now have the option to apply for a Baby Loss Certificate from today, 22 February 2024. This initiative, acknowledging the profound grief of losing a baby at any stage of pregnancy, represents a significant step towards offering formal recognition and support to bereaved families across England.

The pain of losing a baby is an indescribably devastating experience for parents, often leaving emotional scars that can last a lifetime. Recognising this profound loss, the government has introduced a voluntary scheme for Baby Loss Certificates, aimed at providing formal recognition of the grief parents endure. This initiative is part of the broader Women’s Health Strategy for England, ensuring that the journey of loss is acknowledged and supported.

A Compassionate Initiative

The UK government has implemented initiatives to enhance the care and support available to parents who experience pregnancy losses before 24 weeks. Among these initiatives is the introduction of Baby Loss Certificates, designed to formally acknowledge the grief and loss experienced by parents during early pregnancy. Additionally, the development of specialist recurrent loss clinics aims to offer targeted and holistic support to individuals affected by repeated losses.

Statistics by Tommy’s highlight the prevalence and impact of early pregnancy loss, with an estimated 1 in 5 pregnancies ending in miscarriage (or 1 in 6 considering only those miscarriages that are realised or reported by women). This translates to approximately 250,000 miscarriages annually across the UK. Furthermore, there are around 11,000 emergency admissions each year for ectopic pregnancies, underscoring the significant number of individuals and families affected by early pregnancy complications.

Available from 9 am today, the scheme allows parents to apply for a certificate to acknowledge their loss formally. Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins highlighted the importance of supporting women and parents affected by such a traumatic event, thanking the tireless efforts of charities and campaigners who have worked to bring this initiative to life.

What is Miscarriage

Miscarriage, defined as the loss of a pregnancy before the 23rd week, often presents through symptoms like vaginal bleeding and abdominal cramping. It’s vital to seek immediate medical advice from a GP or midwife upon experiencing these signs. Although light bleeding can occur in early pregnancy without leading to miscarriage, professional assessment is crucial for health and peace of mind.

The causes of miscarriage are varied, with many instances linked to chromosomal abnormalities in the baby that prevent normal development. It’s important to note that these occurrences are usually beyond anyone’s control and do not result from the actions of the parents. While the prevention of many miscarriages is out of one’s hands, adopting a healthy lifestyle before and during pregnancy can minimise risk factors.

The aftermath of a miscarriage can be emotionally taxing, evoking a range of feelings from guilt and shock to anger. Support is available through various channels including hospital counselling services, the Miscarriage Association, and other charities that offer guidance, support, and resources for grieving parents. Creating a memorial for the lost baby can also provide a sense of closure and a way to honour their memory.

Navigating the Path of Grief

Navigating the aftermath of a miscarriage requires compassionate support and understanding. Organisations like the Miscarriage Association, hospital counselling services, and Cruse Bereavement Care offer invaluable resources for those grieving. Sharing your experience with someone who understands, considering a memorial, and joining support groups can provide comfort and a sense of community. While the emotional journey is deeply personal, with feelings ranging from guilt to anger, it’s important to allow yourself time to grieve and heal. 

Delivering on Promises: Baby Loss Certificate

The introduction of a Baby Loss Certificate fulfils a key recommendation from the independent Pregnancy Loss Review, aimed at enhancing the care and support provided to grieving parents. Minister for the Women’s Health Strategy, Maria Caulfield, emphasised the government’s commitment to listening to parents’ experiences and introducing measures that recognise their loss as part of a comprehensive plan for women’s health.

In alignment with improving maternity care and support for birth trauma, the government is also investing £25 million in women’s health hubs. These hubs are designed to provide integrated services, facilitating easier access to crucial health services for women, further embodying the government’s commitment to supporting women’s health and wellbeing comprehensively.

“Being able to register that child’s name and their date of birth means a lot to parents.”

– Maria Caulfield on Sky News

Stakeholder Perspectives

The scheme has been met with positive reactions from key stakeholders and bereavement care experts. Zoe Clark-Coates MBE of the Mariposa Trust, a co-chair of the Pregnancy Loss Review, expressed her thrill at the formal acknowledgement of lost babies, hoping it aids the grieving process. Similarly, Samantha Collinge, Bereavement Lead Midwife, and Ruth Bender Atik of the Miscarriage Association have highlighted the importance of recognising every loss, emphasising that the emotional impact of early pregnancy loss is significant and deserves acknowledgement.


The launch of the Baby Loss Certificate scheme marks a monumental step in acknowledging and supporting the grief of parents who have experienced the loss of a pregnancy. It’s a reminder that their loss is significant, their grief is valid, and they are not alone. For those who have gone through this heartbreak, applying for a certificate can be a step towards healing, offering a tangible acknowledgement of their baby’s existence.

We encourage our readers to spread awareness of this supportive initiative and to reach out for support if they are navigating the journey of loss. Remember, the London Pregnancy Clinic team is here to support you through every step of your pregnancy journey, including the moments of loss and grief.

For parents in England wishing to obtain a certificate recognising their loss, please follow this link. If you are in Scotland and seeking a certificate, click here.

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